Old barn at Daley Ranch
  • Old barn at Daley Ranch
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The recent purchase of a parcel of land on the east border of the Daley Ranch preserve in Escondido ensures that hikers can now visit boulder-dotted Stanley Peak, a summit that formerly lay just out of reach on private land. The shortest hiking (or biking) route with the least elevation gain and loss is described here.

To get to Daley Ranch’s principal trailhead, exit Interstate 15 at El Norte Parkway in north Escondido. Drive three miles east and make a left turn (north) on La Honda Drive. Drive one mile uphill to the end of the road, where you will find a large parking lot/staging area for Daley Ranch on the left, just short of the Dixon Lake entrance.

Step around the Daley Ranch gate north of the parking lot and walk uphill, rather steeply, on the paved access road called Ranch House Trail. At 0.4 mile the road starts descending into live-oak woods and you get a glimpse of the largest of several old stock ponds on the ranch, its shoreline guarded by tall cattails.

After about a mile, pavement on Ranch House Trail ends and the quaint redwood Daley house (generally closed to public visitation) comes into view on the left. Descendants of Robert Daley, who settled in this valley in 1869, erected the house in 1928. The pioneering Daley family controlled large tracts of land around rural San Diego County and was prominent in the construction industry.

Continue north another 200 yards past various outbuildings to the beginning of the dirt-road route signed “Jack Creek Meadow.” Take the road to the right, walk 200 yards, and then turn right on the steeply ascending Sage Trail. After 0.4 mile you reach a secluded upper stock pond. If you don’t mind a quick side trip to the right, walk out along the earth-fill dam — the west edge of the pond — and look down on the valley of Jack Creek.

Continue, moderately uphill, on Sage Trail to the Stanley Peak Trail junction on the left, 2.2 miles from your starting point. Climb all the way — easy at first, then steep — to the rocky summit, where you can sit on the piled-up boulders for a while. Cast your gaze over much of the Daley Ranch property to the west and note the ribbon of pavement curving north below you — busy Valley Center Road. A cautionary note: scattered poison oak shrubs lurk on the summit, so watch where you sit.

Return the same way you came for an expeditious round-trip of less than six miles. Or, pick any number of alternative routes for the way back. Daley Ranch is simply riddled with old ranch roads and newer single-track trails.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

Stanley Peak in Daley Ranch
Escondido’s Daley Ranch preserve offers a new peak destination.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 38 miles
Hiking/biking length: 5.8 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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